3 June 2021
At YWCA Canberra, we stand by our values, which include supporting the self-determination and agency of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and women and proactively working with communities to achieve reconciliation.
In line with this commitment, we held a range of National Reconciliation Week events.
Our Mura Lanyon Youth and Community Centre (MLYCC) recently celebrated its 20th birthday with a day-long inclusive event celebrating MLYCC’s growth and impact in the community.
Held just before National Reconciliation Week (NRW), the event acknowledged our continued commitment to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and promoted children and young people of the local community learning about and engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait cultures and histories.
The day started with a Welcome to Country by Aunty Violet Sheridan, the cutting of a birthday cake, and a ‘turning of the earth’ ceremony with Aaron of Dreamtime Connections to launch the new MLYCC Reconciliation Garden. This was followed by damper information and tasting sessions with Arika from Tukka by the Bush.
Children from a local preschool joined us and shared their Acknowledgement of Country, as well as singing in Ngunnawal language.
Then local children and young people took part in traditional song and dance with Aunty Tjanara, listened to Aboriginal stories and discovered medicinal and food properties of native plants.
The theme of Reconciliation Week, More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, was incorporated into many activities throughout the day. Community members wrote their views and hopes for reconciliation on stones to be included in MLYCC’s Reconciliation Garden, which many children also helped to plant.
Guests and participants furthered their knowledge and understanding of the importance of reconciliation by taking part in a reconciliation quiz we developed, and children and young people created artwork to remain at MLYCC and to be included in the development of our safe talking space.
Everyone who came along had a wonderful time learning and creating, and MLYCC was filled with energy and creativity.
Reconciliation is a regular element of the educational programming within our children’s services, both early childhood and school age care.
We believe that a concrete contribution we can make towards reconciliation is ensuring that children in our services learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories from an early age.
In the lead up to NRW, all of our early childhood education and care services arranged a visit from Aboriginal storyteller Larry Brandy, so the children could have a better understanding of why the week is so important. Larry is a Wiradjuri man from Condobolin, central New South Wales, who lives in Canberra and performs storytelling throughout Australia.
Larry involved the children in performances as they became kangaroos, emus and hunters and learnt about the traditional Wiradjuri culture. He also shared many Aboriginal stories and anecdotes with the children, and showed them traditional Aboriginal tools and hunting techniques.
During NRW itself, our services engaged the children with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks, histories, storytelling, singing and dancing.
At our Currawong Early Childhood Service, each child was given a piece of paper to draw what they feel reconciliation is or a representation of reconciliation. These artworks will be used to create a shared centre artwork in Currawong’s hallway in the form of a rainbow serpent.
At our Winyu Early Childhood Service, children read about the Pitjantjatjara people and learnt more about the meanings behind the Aboriginal flag.
At our Campbell Cottage service, children went on a ‘bush walk’ to identify footprints of native animals and learnt about Dreamtime stories.
Staff in our central office took part in a morning tea for NRW, where our CEO Frances Crimmins took the opportunity to reiterate our organisational commitment to reconciliation, including through our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). This RAP is at a Stretch level, the highest our organisation can have, and Frances spoke on how the Executive Management Team is committed to real actions towards reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The majority of our office attended, watched a video on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and reflected on what reconciliation means to each of us and what actions we are taking towards it. Ms Crimmins challenged us all, in our personal and work lives, to consider concrete actions we can each take towards reconciliation, and how we can further elevate First Nations voices.